Immigration reforms effective 1 July 2024

Australian Migration Program reforms
Australian Migration Program reforms
GUEST POST BY AMANDA TINNER, PRINCIPAL, VISA EXECUTIVE

A raft of changes to the Australian Migration Program came into effect on 1 July, including changes to the TSMIT, updated 457, 482 & 494 visa conditions, the end of the legacy 457 exemption, new UK working holiday visa conditions, and new work and holiday visas for Philippines passport holders. Amanda Tinner, Principal of Visa Executive and Expert Mentor for TEMi, shares a breakdown of the information to note here on the TEMi Blog.

TSMIT increase

From 1 July 2024, the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) increased from $70,000 to $73,150. New nomination applications from this date need to meet the new TSMIT of $73,150 or the annual market salary rate, whichever is higher.

This change does not affect existing visa holders and nominations lodged before 1 July2024. However, existing TSS visa holders will need to be reviewed and earnings increased to meet the market rate.

482 visa holders and changing employers

As of 1 July, Temporary Work (Skilled) (Sc 457) visa holders, Temporary Skill Shortage (Sc 482) visa holders and Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (provisional) (Sc 494) visa holders who stop working with their sponsoring employer have more time to find a new sponsor, apply for a different visa or arrange to depart Australia.
These visa holders will have up to:

  • 180 days at a time; or
  • a maximum of 365 days in total across the entire visa grant period.

During this time, visa holders can work for other employers. This includes work in occupations not listed in their most recently approved sponsorship nomination. This will ensure that visa holders can support themselves while they look for a new sponsor.

Please note that unless exempt, a visa holder cannot work for another employer unless they have ceased work with their sponsoring employer. Visa holders must remain in their nominated occupation while working for their existing sponsor.

Sponsors must still let the department know if there is any change in situation within 28 days. This includes ceasing sponsorship or if a visa holder resigns.

Visa holders must not do any work that is inconsistent with any licence or registration needed for their nominated occupation. This includes any conditions or requirements they are subject to.

The changes apply to existing visa holders, as well as those granted a visa on or after 1July 2024. Any periods a visa holder stopped working for their sponsor before 1 July 2024 will not count towards the new time periods outlined above.

What does this mean for HR Managers ?

We always advise caution when an announcement is made by the Department without much detail.

What we are not sure of is:

-how will employers be able to monitor how many days a worker has worked with no active sponsor and protect themselves from employer sanctions? Is the government intending to introduce this calculation onto VEVO checks?

-legislated sponsor obligations carry a positive obligation to ensure their workers do not work for other employers or outside of their nominated occupation code. Will these be removed?

-what monitoring will the Department conduct to safeguard the integrity of the work visa program if any employer can place a sponsored visa holder on their payroll? Will the new ‘non-sponsor’ employer have any positive obligations to that employee under migration law?

The Visa Executive team has spoken about this at great length and we all believe that it is still prudent to sponsor any visa holders on a 482. Why are we advising this?  Candidates are able to work for a sponsor for 180 days/365 days as detailed above, however if an employer wishes to employ a 482 visa holder without first sponsoring them, they must be mindful of the these days (calendar and not work days) to ensure that nothing slips through the cracks.

But wait there is more. As Lady Whistledown would say, ‘dearest gentle reader, there are rumours circulating’, and they are:

-the Immigration Department is considering allowing sponsored workers to count periods of work for multiple sponsors when calculating the two years of sponsored employment if the candidate wishes to transition to permanent residence under subclass 186.

-the Immigration Department is considering allowing sponsors to spread the payment of the SAF levy over the life of the employment.  Not sure how this is going to work for the Federal Government’s Finance Department, but we shall see.

Work and Holiday Visas for Philippines passport holders

From 1 July, 200 holders of Philippine passports are eligible to apply for the visa subclass 462 – work and holiday visa.  Only 200 applicants will be granted this visa.

The applicant will have to provide evidence that:

  • they are aged between 18-30 years
  • they hold a tertiary degree; or
  • they have completed at least two years of undergraduate study or post-secondary education.

Legacy visa subclass 457 worker age exemption finished on 30 June

The legacy 457 worker age exemption applicable to Employer Nomination Scheme (Sc 186) visa applications can be used by an applicant who satisfies all of the below:

  • held a Sc 457 visa on or after 18 April 2017;
  • was in Australia for at least 12 months between 1 February 2020 and 14 December 2021; and
  • applied for a Sc 186 visa on or before 30 June 2024.

This concession ended on 30 June.  For those applicants applying for the 186 visa and who are aged 45 years and over, the only exemption for them to apply for this visa is to be earning the FWHIT (Fair Work High Income Threshold) 2 years before lodgement of the 186 visa application.

Working Holiday (subclass 417) visa arrangements for UK passport holders

From 1 July 2024, ​​UK passport holders can be granted up to three separate Working Holiday visas without having to meet any specified work requirements.

These arrangements apply to all Working Holiday (subclass 417) visa applications lodged by UK passport holders on or after 1 July 2024.

Strengthening Employer Compliance Act

Migration Amendment (Strengthening Employer Compliance) Act 2024  commenced on 1 July 2024 and aims to improve employer compliance and protect temporary migrant workers from exploitation.

Key Features of the Act

The Strengthening Employer Compliance Act introduces several critical measures to protect workers and ensure employers adhere to ethical hiring practices. These measures include:

Criminalising Coercion:

It will become a crime to pressure or coerce someone into violating their work-related visa conditions such as forcing a visa holder to work beyond their limits associated with their visa.

Prohibiting Convicted Employers:

Employers convicted under these new offences will face a ban on hiring further temporary visa holders for possible period of up to five years, ten years, or indefinitely, depending on the severity of the offence.

Public Disclosure:

Much has been made of a list of sanctioned sponsors but it needs to be noted that this information is already available – https://www.abf.gov.au/about-us/what-we-do/sponsor-sanctions/register-of-sanctioned-sponsors#.

Enhanced Penalties:

The Act significantly increases pecuniary and civil penalties to deter potential violators. Criminal penalties include up to two years imprisonment or fines of up to 360 penalty units (with each unit currently valued at $313), while civil penalties can reach up to 240 penalty units.

Empowering Authorities:

Border Force (ABF) will receive increased powers and tools, including the ability to issue enforceable undertakings and compliance notices.

What does this mean for HR Managers ?

Make sure that you are aware of your sponsorship obligations and if you are not sure, please ask a Visa Executive team member.

And so dearest reader, we shall leave you with your thoughts whilst you ponder this information and rest assured that this is not the end of our scribe for this year as alas there are indeed more changes afoot.

……………………………….

If you are looking at sending staff to Australia, want to clarify the information in this article, or for any other queries regarding visas, get in touch with Amanda Tinner, Principal, Visa Executive.

This article was originally published on www.visaexecutive.com.

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